It may just be that there is a dramatic change during the next few hours, and the Conservative position recovers sufficently for Theresa May to win a workable majority.  However, some senior Tories in the campaign are now briefing that the BBC exit poll and YouGov’s original calculation were right – and that she will fall short.

In any event, it is clear that this election has left her authority deeply wounded, perhaps fatally, even if she returns to Downing Street as Prime Minister later today.  When she called the poll, the Tories expected a landslide.  This morning, they believed they would win emphatically.

ConservativeHome has been speaking to backbenchers and Ministers, and though there is some loyalist sentiment the picture isn’t pretty. The consensus view is that –

  • The Prime Minister’s authority has received a blow from which it is unlikely to recover.
  • Her most senior advisers, Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill, must go.
  • May must share more power with her Cabinet…
  • …Which itself must be open to “a wider range of views”.  (Some suggest backbench Brexiteers, such as Michael Gove, join it  Others name senior Remainers, such as Nicky Morgan.)
  • The principle of Brexit is not in question, but the Government’s proposals for it are – not to mention the timetable. Single market membership may now be on the table.

And all this, remember, is on the assumption that May somehow gains a working majority, or is Prime Minister in a hung Parliament.  In the latter circumstance, a second election in the autumn will be likely.  With the threat of a second election hanging over their heads, Conservative backbenchers would be unlikely to mount a leadership challenge, but May’s days as leader would be numbered.